In Seattle, many movies will get a public advance screening for the benefit of the handful of local critics; the public setting is intended to influence the critics with a happy audience who are just pleased to get to see a free movie. I was part of the public for this particular screening of Suburbicon, and had initially missed out on the good stadium seating behind the foot rail (much of it had been reserved for special film enthusiast groups). Dejectedly, I placed my bag in one of the singles down front and went to the bathroom. When I came back, the extra seats had been cleared, allowing me to get a valuable space in the middle of the theater.
The three white people I sat in front of were not very pleased with this development, quietly complaining about my newly found presence. I’m not particularly tall and this theater was stadium seating, so it’s not like I was blocking their view. I don’t know what they were bitching about me for anyways. Despite their not-so-quiet-but-totally-trying-to-talk-amongst-themselves volume, I overheard their whiny ass conversation and shot them my most menacing glare (the one usually reserved for when I overhear people calling me a Spic or Faggot), and they quickly changed their tune to being insulted by the presence of a black guy wearing a Trump sweatshirt who was in the process of moving his group right next to me. First they were insulted by a Hispanic then by a black guy. They complained about the stinky garlicy food somebody might have brought in to the theater. They complained about people coming and going from the middle of the row before the movie even started. They bitched about the injustice of it all, saying that they were going to call the lady, Janet or Janice, who runs the pre-screening operation and question how she found her audience. They also complained about how they didn’t understand pumpkin bashes, and then one guy said that, for some upcoming weekend, he and his friend were going to be bachelors and could do whatever they wanted.
I wonder if these miserable assholes were studio plants trying to emphasize the themes of this movie by being nearly as insufferable as the movie was. George Clooney’s Suburbicon is a miserable lecture on race posing as a “dark” “comedy” that seeks not to challenge the audience but to mock the “others” (meaning suburban, middle-class, middle-America white people). Matt Damon is a white lawyer living in a white 1950s Suburbia whose bliss is interrupted after a black family moves into the all white neighborhood. Actually, it’s not the black family that interrupts the bliss. It is a pair of white guys who may or may not be robbers who terrorize Matt Damon and his white family while the neighborhood terrorizes the black family. There’s a question of who the white guys are, but its not very interesting. Meanwhile, the movie ignores the black people except to use them as tokens who suffer for the sole reason of reminding the audience that white people are racist assholes who get away with everything. Or, maybe they don’t get away with everything. Whatever. Who cares?
Right from the opening frames, Clooney is openly mocking Suburbia, its racist origins, and white people’s need for isolation. He assumes a wacky tone that balances between Pleasantville and Bob Balaban’s Parents…presenting a “dark side” to its intentionally-satiric 1950s sitcom sheen. This might have been fresh 30 years ago before David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (the Coen brothers originally wrote the screenplay back in 1986; though that screenplay has since been re-written), but Clooney’s style strains to point out how racist these damn wypipo are and never takes the opportunity to challenge the audience for their own assumptions about race and class. White people are racist, and aren’t you glad that you’re not one of those racist white people? Suburbicon is the self-satisfied mocking of post-Trump racism without ever suggesting that the audience could be racist.
After the movie, the annoying racist classist white people immediately started bitching about the audience again. Suburbicon did not cause them to reflect upon their own belief system. It did not entertain. It did not surprise or shock, and every plot development (I hesitate to call anything in this movie a “twist”) is telegraphed to most anybody who has ever seen an “intentionally” “dark” “satire.” At one point, Suburbicon might have been a “clever” screenplay about a mild mannered white guy pushed to the brink, but it has since been murdered by a post-Hillary political hack without a shred of humility or subtlety.